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A movie auditorium.
Photography: Courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse

The best things to do in Chicago this weekend

Find the best things to do in Chicago this weekend with our guide to concerts, exhibitions, festivals and more.

Emma Krupp
Jeffy Mai
Edited by
Emma Krupp
&
Jeffy Mai
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Welcome to another weekend! Take a load off by seeing a film at the city's first Alamo Drafthouse. Foodies have mac and cheese and whiskey events to check out. You can also celebrate the Lunar New Year with parades around town or a dumpling-making dinner. So ready to make the most of your time off? Check out the rest of the best things to do in Chicago this weekend. 

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Chicago right now

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Events and to do this weekend in Chicago

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Armour Square

Celebrate the Year of the Rabbit in Chinatown at the neighborhood's official Lunar New Year parade, which falls after the arrival of Chinese New Year (January 22). Attendees line Wentworth Avenue to see marching bands, decorated floats and traditional lion dancers. The colorful procession begins at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue at 1pm, traveling north to Cermak Road.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Uptown

Uptown's annual Lunar New Year Celebration kicks off the Chinese New Year with dazzling dragons, dancers, drummers and more. The parade starts at 1pm at Argyle Street and Winthrop Avenue. More than 20 local community groups will be in attendance and there will be dancers and performers as well as family-friendly activities to enjoy.

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  • Things to do
  • Loop

Get your fill of cheesy noodles at the Mac & Cheese crawl happening in Wrigleyville this weekend. The event will feature stops at the Country Club, Deuces Major League Bar, Moe’s Cantina, Old Crow Smokehouse, the Cubby Bear and more. Tickets include seven free mac and cheese tastings and access to drink specials and giveaways.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • River North

Whiskey lovers, get ready to taste over 20 domestic and international whiskeys over the course of several hours. You’ll get to learn from whiskey ambassadors who will be on site as well as enjoy food and drink specials. The event will feature brands like Aberfeldy, Journeyman Distillery, Milam and Greene, MS Walker and more.

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  • Movie theaters
  • Wrigleyville
  • price 2 of 4

Popular Texas theater chain Alamo Drafthouse is opening its first Chicago location this week in Wrigleyville. In addition to showing the newest films, the venue offers full-service meals with staff bringing food to customers' seats during screenings. There are also movie parties—an immersive and interactive viewing experiences boasting fun props, themed drinks and more. The first event will take place on January 29, featuring cult favorite The Goonies.

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  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • Loop

The classic fairytale of Hansel and Gretel comes to life for six performances at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Engelbert Humperdinck’s whimsical masterpiece transports audiences to a strange and twisted world of discovery, where they’ll be moved by musical gems like “Dream Ballet,” “Evening Prayer” and “Witch’s Ride.” The production is sung in German, with English subtitles projected above the stage.

  • Music
  • Rap, hip-hop and R&B

The one and only Ice Cube is performing at the Horseshoe Hammond Casino on January 28. The influential West Coast rapper has sold over 10 million albums as a solo artist and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as part of N.W.A. in 2016.

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  • Restaurants
  • Loop

Open wide! Chicago Restaurant Week is back for its 16th year. More than 330 Chicagoland eateries will offer specially curated prix fixe menus for brunch ($25), lunch ($25) or dinner ($42/$59) between January 20 and February 5. With more than two weeks to chow down, there's plenty of time to make a few reservations and check out some of the best restaurants in Chicago. Look through our top recommendations here.

  • Things to do

Stroll through Edgewater Chamber of Commerce’s Winter Bryn Mawrkets, where you can peruse stellar work by makers from all over the windy city from wellness to apparel. Don’t miss the one-of-a-kind art installations and purchase art to take home at the Winter Bryn Mawrkets Gallery. Check out their website for the full list of local vendors you'll find there.

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  • Sports and fitness
  • Yoga & Pilates
  • Streeterville

Head to 360 Chicago on Saturdays for yoga with a killer view. Instructor Britta Eumann will lead an hour-long class on the 94th floor of 875 N Michigan Avenue (formerly the John Hancock Center) that’s suitable for all ages and skill levelsyou just need to bring your own mat and arrived properly dressed. Registration is $45 and includes a cocktail or coffee, plus admission to the observation deck so you can stick around and snap some photos after you're done striking poses on the mat.

  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Ukrainian Village

Add some shopping to your Saturday morning brunch routine by visiting Handmade Market at the Empty Bottle. You can sip a mimosa while checking out the wares of local vendors selling funky jewelry, clothing, handbags and paper crafts. You probably need a gift for someone—or yourself—right? Handmade Market takes over the Bottle on the second Saturday of the month from October through April.

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  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Wicker Park

Chicago farmers market season is well past its peak, but you can still get in on the fresh produce action during this winter edition of the Wicker Park market, which is popping up inside The Robey’s lobby on select Sundays from December through April. Browse goods from vendors like River Valley Ranch, Star Farm and Zeitlins Delicatessen—and you can always grab a coffee from The Robey’s espresso bar to sip while you stock up. 

  • Art
  • Contemporary art
  • Streeterville

What does “Caribbean art” look like? This new group exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art takes a diasporic approach to answering that question, using weather—and all its changeability and unpredictability—as a metaphor for exploring artistic practices and identity-making within Caribbean art communities across the world. With the tumultuous geopolitical climate of the 1990s as its backdrop, the exhibit highlights work from 37 international artists; it’s also the first major MCA exhibitiobn to presented in both Spanish and English. 

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  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • Millennium Park

Situated in the heart of downtown Chicago with the city's sweeping skyline as a backdrop, the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park is a winter attraction unlike any other. Skaters can lace up and wind around a winding ice-covered path that's twice the length of a lap around a traditional rink. Reservations for the popular ice rink should be made in advance, as they tend to fill up quickly.

Admission to the Skating Ribbon is free Monday through Thursday and for 11am sessions Friday through Sunday (and $5 for other time slots Friday through Sunday, as well as holidays) if you bring your own skates. No skates? Entry is $16–$22 if you need to rent a pair. The Ribbon stays open through March (weather permitting) and even offers limited hours on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Loop

Pullman has long been recognized for its history as one of the country’s first industrial company towns, and a nexus for the burgeoning U.S. labor rights movement at the turn of the 20th century. Yet while South Pullman receives investments for architectural preservation and revitalization, North Pullman—though built around the same time as its southern counterpart—features neglected buildings in need of restoration. In this new exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago-based architect Armel Sagbohan maps both sides of the neighborhood using photos and sketches to propose a plan to address that divide, envisioning a new future for North Pullman that considers the unique needs of the neighborhood and its residents. 

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  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • Millennium Park

Skate under the Chicago skyline and within eyeshot of the Chicago Christmas Tree at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Plus, take advantage of free skating lessons on most Saturdays and Sundays from 9–10am, where you can learn both beginner- and intermediate-level skills. Note that you'll need to make a free online reservation for both regular skating and lessons this year, and if it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 5, weather permitting.

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Streeterville

Yer a wizard, Harry! Or at least, you can pretend to be one at this immersive Harry Potter experience that’s popping up at Water Tower Place through May 2023. Visitors are invited to step into Harry’s life at Hogwarts with interactive features like Quidditch lessons, Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, sipping sweet drinks at the Butterbeer Bar, Patronus-seeking in the Forbidden Forest and learning their Hogwarts house via the Sorting Hat, among other magical experiences. FYI: In addition to regular operating hours, the exhibition is open on “select” Tuesdays and Wednesdays and may offer different hours around holidays. 

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  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Hyde Park

Tap into feelings of childhood nostalgia at the Museum of Science and Industry’s newest exhibit, a colorful glimpse into the world of Mold-A-Rama™ machines. Explore a collection of popular, rare and experimental souvenirs, learn about the history of the machines’ production and breathe in the iconic scent of their plastic toymaking—you can even take home a few new Mold-A-Rama™ souvenirs if you’re looking to expand your collection. 

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  • Museums
  • Natural history
  • Museum Campus

Delve into the often-mystifying process of death in this surprisingly life-affirming exhibit at the Field Museum, which explores dying through a variety of natural and cultural processes. Attendees can explore highlights like a full-sized ofrenda made by Chicago artist Norma Rios-Sierra, a replica of a whale's body on the ocean floor and check out a variety of interactive media and soundscapes to help ponder some of life's big questions about death. 

  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Humboldt Park

Working in partnership with the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico, the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture is bringing a stunning selection of paintings to Chicago—some of which have never been shown outside of Puerto Rico—for an exhibition highlighting several of the island's most important artists. Centered around three curatorial themes (“My Home,” “My People” and “My Island”), the works span from the 18th century to the first half of the 20th century, showcasing artists like José Campeche, Francisco Oller, Miguel Pou and Myrna Báez, among others. Tickets to the exhibition are free, but you might consider a small online donation to the Museo de Arte de Ponce, which is still recovering from damage sustained in a 2020 earthquake.  

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  • Comedy
  • Sketch shows
  • Lake View

Bye Bye Liver combines two robust Chicago traditions: comedy and heavy drinking. The show opened a decade ago for a three-week run, then kept getting extended. A cast of four to six performers portray characters at the fictional "Franks Bar," telling stories that explore the city's robust drinking culture. Each show incorporates interactive audience drinking games, allowing you to sip a cocktail or beer while taking cues from the cast. And if you're up for a nightcap after the performance, you can stick around for the official after party and mingle with the cast.

  • Nightlife
  • Cabaret and burlesque

Settle in for an evening of burlesque performers, belly dancers, drag artists and variety entertainers during this weekly show at Newport Theater. The hour-long show features speciality cocktails and intimate seating arrangements, making this feel like a clandestine speakeasy experience. Bring some singles so that you can tip performers throughout the night!

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  • Theater
  • Experimental
  • Uptown

For more than 30-years, the Neo-Futurists have been delighting late-night crowds with performances that pack 30 miniature plays into a 60-minute show. Returning to in-person programming (attendees must be vaccinated and masked) after more than a year spent in the virtual realm, the company's signature show is more unpredictable than ever, with a handful of compact new plays premiering every week. Within the span of 10 minutes, you may be treated to a poignant monologue about everyday life or an irreverent diatribe delivered by a pantsless member of the cast—all inspired by the experiences of the performers on stage. Always changing and evolving, it's the rare show that truly offers something different everytime you show up to see it.

  • Comedy
  • Uptown

This weekly “live magazine” is a cavalcade of culture, politics and wit featuring journalists, actors, comedians and musicians offering idiosyncratic reports on the news of the day. Head to Uptown’s iconic Green Mill for drinks, hot takes and laughs; the longstanding Saturday afternoon edition tends to run about two and a half hours.

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  • Art
  • Sculpture
  • Suburbs

See eight towering sculptures by South African artist Daniel Popper at the Morton Arboretum's new outdoor exhibition, which spreads the 15- to 26-foot-tall works throughout the natural area. Made of glass-reinforced concrete, wood, fiberglass and steel, the one-of-a-kind pieces in "Human+Nature" depict human figures that evoke the natural landscape they're set amid, including a pair of 36-foot-long hands reaching out from a grove of oak trees and a maternal figure that springs up amid magnolia trees.

Access to "Human+Nature" is included as part of timed-entry admission to the Morton Arboretum, and there's a map that will allow you to easily plan your visit and spot all eight sculptures along the way.

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  • Nightlife
  • Pop-ups and food events
  • Loop

Fairmont Chicago is bringing back its winter experience, Fairmont Lodge, through February 2023. The hotel’s lobby has been converted into a wonderland full of themed décor, fire pit tables, festive programming and seasonal menu items. Guests can try a Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice cocktail that’s set aflame at the table, or indulge in sweet and savory fondue. There’s also live entertainment Thursday through Saturday.

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